My hair did not like France. The water was very hard, and my thick curls were in a constant tangle. I finally figured out that I could rip through it with my comb while it was dry just before taking a shower, which minimized the frustration. Prior to that, however, I would basically threaten to cut it all off several times each day, much to the chagrin of my husband.
Don’t worry, I would tell him. I will make you a wig with my hair, and YOU can wear it if you love it so much!
He would just roll his eyes at me. Apparently, my threats were not as intimidating as I would have liked.
My fingernails adored France! In the united states, I have spent many years with my hands close to my face. Any slight anxiety or fear, a need for control in an otherwise unpredictable existence, it never took much to keep the habit going. I have always wanted to stop and periodically have had temporary success in doing so. I tried bad tasting nail police, gloves, brightly colored nail polish, the list goes on and on.
My greatest triumphs over the obsession were during my travels in Africa and Russia. There is nothing like traveling to a foreign land to create new behavior patterns. I have long since given up attempting new habits with New Year’s resolutions, but I have had much success in ceasing from biting my nails and picking at my cuticles when traveling. It just takes one cold to realize I probably should not be putting my hands anywhere near my mouth. Plus, with the colder weather in France while traveling in December and January, my hands spent most of their time in pockets staying warm.
My husband has attempted to correct this behavior in two languages, often blended into one.
Ne pick pas, he will say, and Ne mange pas, when he sees me going at it.
I have appreciated his efforts, though I am afraid it hasn’t done much good. It is such an engrained habit that I often don’t even realize I am doing it.
Somehow, I was able to cease and desist with regard to my fingernails. Even with my cuticle clipper disappearing with my shoulder bag when our car was broken into in a remote location in Provence, I kept quite vigilant in keeping my hands far from my face. Just one look at them, and it would take all of my control not to want to try to fix them, even though time and experience has told me that there is no fixing when it comes to nails and cuticles. Any attention beyond that of a professional manicurist typically tends to make them worse.
But France was good for my fingernails! It was the return home that has been the real challenge. Without the distraction of foreign architecture, croissants, birds, and all the pleasures of travel in my beloved France, I find it incredibly difficult to avoid my hands. They are always around, and if I take even one look at the state of my cuticles, it is next to impossible to keep myself from trying to fix them.
Just one little nibble and that’s it, I can hear a voice coax from within.
No! That’s how it starts, I plea.
Oh, come on. You have done so well. Why not reward yourself with a bite?
I tell my husband how much easier it was in France to outwit this habit.
Hm, he responds. I think it’s easy in Paris to have your attention focused outward, on all the exciting things around you. We were also constantly doing things. It’s that old phrase about it being easier to be human doings than human beings (I really don’t know if that is a phrase, but I’ve heard something like it before). However, back at home there is downtime. The external distractions are lessened and we find ourselves back with our selves. Without distractions, habits (like nail biting) are easy to slip into. We can use this as a flag in our meditation…whenever we fall into some habit that we wish to stop, we can use that as a flag to stop and be…and be okay with just being.
I know he is right. He is a wise one and has been my guide and guru for some time. Yet for just once, it would be nice to have it easy in this realm, but I will take all of the beauty and love that does seem to come so easily in exchange for the concerted effort and work in others.